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Full text of "My country and my people"

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THE    ARTISTIC   LIFE                      295
is often purely so even to this day. Hence the unmitigated ugliness of the best modern factory buildings, school-houses, theatres, post offices, railway stations, and rectilinear streets, whose oppressiveness accounts for the fact that we constantly feel the need to escape to the country. For the greatest difference between nature and these products of the human minfl is the Infinite richness of nature and the extreme limitations of our ingenuity. The best human mind cannot invent anything besides block houses, with a few conventional mouldings, a rotunda here and a triangular gable there. The most impressive mausoleum or memorial cannot compare with the inventiveness of the trees, even the mutilated and disinfected trees that line the avenues of our main streets, when we remember to put them there. Yet how nature dares! If these trees with their rough surface and irregular shapes had been the products of a human architect, we would have consigned the architect to an insane asylum. Nature even dares to paint the trees green. We are afraid of irregularity. We are afraid even of colour. And we have therefore Invented the word "drab" to describe our own existence.
Why is it that, with all the fertility of the human mind, we have not succeeded in producing anything less oppressive than terrace houses and modern pavements and rectilinear streets, from which we have to seek perennial escape by going to summer resorts? Utility is the answer. But utility Is not art. The modern industrial age has aggravated the situation, especially with the invention of reinforced concrete. This is a symbol of the industrial age, and it will live as long as the modern industrial civilization lasts. Most of the concrete buildings have forgotten even to put on a roof, because, we are told, the roof is useless. Some have even professed to see an inspiring beauty in the New York skyscrapers. If so, I have not seen any. Their beauty Is the beauty of gold: they are beautiful because they suggest the power of millions. They express the spirit of the industrial age.
Yet because we have to look at the houses we build for ourselves every day and have to spend most of our days in them, and because bad architecture can cramp the style of our living, there is a very human demand to make it beautiful. Very